BRISCOE WINS IT FOR STAGS AFTER MARRIOTT INJURY
Blue Square Bet Premier
Mansfield Town 2 - 1 Rushden & Diamonds
Medley 29, Briscoe 90. O'Connor 15
Attendance: 1758 (125 from Rushden)
Date: 2 April 2011
Stags picked up a thoroughly deserved win over Rushden at Field Mill thanks to Briscoe's last minute goal from outside the box. Earlier, former Stag Aaran O'Connor had given Rushden the lead against the run of play, and then Luke Medley had equalised. Alan Marriott, back in goal, after 6 months out, had to go off just before half time with what a finger injury.
Luke Medley scores the Stags first goal --->
Mansfield Town 2 Rushden 1, Saturday 2nd April
CHAD report by John Lomas
BIRTHDAY boy Louis Briscoe grabbed a last minute winner for injury-ravaged Mansfield Town after a much improved showing against Rushden and Diamonds at Field Mill on Saturday afternoon, reports John Lomas.
Stags had enjoyed the majority of chances but it seemed time had run out on them until Briscoe, 23 today, raced away to bury the last gasp winner, his 16th goal of a superb campaign.
Earlier little had gone right for Mansfield and keeper Alan Marriott lasted just 42 minutes of his big comeback game before going off with a suspected broken finger.
Against the run of play former Stags star Aaron O'Connor's 11th goal of the season on 15 minutes had put Diamonds ahead as they looked for their first win in seven games.
But Luke Medley's first goal since his return from a loan spell with Aldershot on 29 minutes rightfully squared things up again.
Briscoe struck a post and on another day leading scorer Paul Connor might have had four or five goals. But it looked like it wasn't to be their day as the second half petered out until Briscoe again produced the goods.
The match attracted less then 1,700 home fans with many supporters putting their pennies away for the day out at Wembley in May instead of what are now largely meaningless league matches.
Threadbare Stags failed to get any of their lengthy list of injured players fit in time and also had defender Sandwith take ill overnight.
Having only had three players on the bench in midweek, the quintet today included the ill Sandwith, the injured O'Rafferty and 38-year-old assistant boss Hall, who registered as a player to make up the numbers.
The starting 11 showed three changes with a welcome return from injury for Marriott in goal for the first time since early October, Grof dropping to the bench, young striker Higginson making his first start of the season out of position on right of midfield and midfielder Istead also out of position at right back.
Stags boss Duncan Russell served a one-match ban after an FA misconduct charge over comments made to the referee last week and was forced to watch the game from the Quarry Lane stand.
Stags made a positive start and Connor almost caught Diamonds napping with a surprise 35 dipping shot that Joe Day had to tip over at the last minute.
The corner was taken short and Higginson finally put the ball into the centre where Connor headed straight at Joe Day.
Stonehouse put a good ball in from the left on five minutes, but once again Connor turned his header straight at the keeper.
Gash carried the ball from right to left before rolling it towards Power whose vicious first time shot flew wide of Marriott's right hand post in Rushden's first threat on six minutes.
Huke's tackle from behind on Connor on 10 minutes earned him a yellow card.
But Diamonds grabbed a lead against the run of play on 15 minutes and the goalscorer was ex-Stag O'Connor.
Porter threaded the ball into the box where Istead failed to cut it out and O'Connor turned sharply to dispatch the sort of lethal finish he used to produce in a Stags shirt from 12 yards.
Briscoe switched flanks to pick out Higginson who, offered space, tried his luck from long range but his shot lacked enough venom to seriously threaten the goal.
A mistake by Foster almost let in Rushden again as he missed a clearance and Charles stole in to stab over the bar from 15 yards.
A far post cross from Charles picked out O'Connor but the angle was almost impossible and his header landed on the roof of the net.
Medley had been caught offside several times already but he finally broke through the square Diamonds' back line on 29 minutes from Murray's through ball and kept his cool, steadying himself before ramming a well-struck finish past Joe Day.
Higginson caught Jamie Day fractionally late on 33 minutes but again the yellow card was produced.
A deflection off the referee inadvertently set up Medley for a run at goal which saw his final shot deflect wide for a corner to the referee's relief.
Joe Day pulled off the save of the match on 37 minutes as Murray lifted the ball over a defender for O'Connor to seemingly produce the perfect lobbed finish only to see Day claw it out of the air and away from goal.
When Marriott failed to hold onto a long throw from the right, the ball bounced towards O'Connor who hooked it over the bar.
Marriott took a kick on the hand in the melee and, after lengthy attention, was forced to leave the action, substituted by Grof.
Briscoe almost marked his birthday with a goal on 43 minutes as Medley did well to reach an almost lost cause down the right and pull it back where Murray and Connor helped it towards Briscoe whose low shot clipped the outside of the post.
In the third minute of stoppage time a long Grof clearance went over everyone to send O'Connor on his way. The striker did well to fend off the three chasing defenders and guide a low finish destined for the bottom corner until Joe Day dived full length to get a fingertip to it and keep it out.
With only Briscoe's shot that hit the post actually off target from Mansfield's eight goal attempts, the home side were unlucky not to lead at the break and were warmly applauded off.
Neat footwork from Briscoe saw him beat three men early in the second half only for Connor to have strayed offside as Briscoe's pass put him through.
Then Higginson went on an impressive run past two challengers before seeing his cross beat the incoming Connor and Medley and sail out for a goal kick.
Istead conceded a needless free kick on the right which saw Power send the ball in and O'Connor glance a header inches wide.
Power was not too far over the angle with his 25 yard free kick as we reached the 62nd minute mark.
Higginson put over a god cross from the left which Medley controlled on his right foot before whipping a low left footed finish just wide of the near post.
Stags fans applauded goalscorer and ex-Stag O'Connor on 67 minutes as he was replaced by Johnson in the visitors' three-pronged attack.
Miller had a first time shot blocked as he lashed a headed Naylor clearance back towards goal.
Medley was too high with his 20 yard effort from the left hand corner of the penalty area as both sides laboured to find a winner.
Stags safely defended two more long Miller throws.
Then a Mansfield raid saw Thompson thread Connor into the box and Osano get in the way of his finish. The corner was cleared to Briscoe whose cross saw Naylor head wide of goal.
Unable to catch a high cross, Gof did well to push the ball away from Gash before he could have a shy at the empty net.
But in the final minute Stags stole a winner Joe Day, so impressive all afternoon, made a poor clearance which reached Briscoe some 40 yards from goal
And he took the ball on 20 yards before burying a deadly low finish from the edge of the box.
STAGS (4-4-2): Marriott; Istead, Foster, Naylor, Stonehouse; Higginson (O'Rafferty 90+2), Murray, Thompson, Briscoe; Connor, Medley. Subs not used: Grof, Sandwith, Preece, Hall.
RUSHDEN & DIAMONDS (4-3-3): Joe Day; Miller (Farrell 88), Corcoran, Huke (Osano 74), Jamie Day; Porter, Mills, Power; Charles, Gash, O'Connor (Johnson 67). Subs not used: Evans, Keehan.
REFEREE: Peter Wright of Lancashire.
ATTENDANCE: 1,758 (125).
GOALS: Stags – Medley 29mins, Briscoe 90mins. Rushden – O'Conner 15mins.
CAUTIONS: Stags – Higginson 33mins. Rushden – Huke 10mins.
CHAD STAGS MAN OF THE MATCH: Tom Naylor
Mansfield Town 2-1 Rushden & Diamonds
Evening Post report
LOUIS Briscoe celebrated his 23rd birthday in style with a last-minute strike to give Mansfield Town victory against Rushden and Diamonds at Field Mill this afternoon.
The Stags had gone a goal behind when former striker Aaron O'Connor took advantage of hesistant defending to net with an unerring finish.
However, Luke Medley's seventh goal of the season – his first from a starting berth – levelled things up before half-time.
The second period looked to be petering out and a draw looked the most likely result with stoppage time looming.
But Briscoe had other ideas by firing home a terrific shot for his 16th goal of the season that draws him level with Paul Connor in the race to finish as the season's top scorer.
It was a result the Stags probably deserved after visitng goalkeeper Joe Day kept his side in it during the first half.
Just 70 seconds in, Connor almost opened the scoring for Mansfield with a superb 35-yard volley that would have dipped under the bar but for a last-ditch fingertip save from Day.
From the resulting corner, taken short, Conor Higginson crossed for Connor who could not get enough power on his header and Joe Day clutched under the bar.
Another chance came and went for the Stags top scorer as he headed straight at the Rushden keeper from an excellent left-wing centre by Paul Stonehouse.
As the visitors made their first serious foray forward, Michael Gash teed up Alan Power whose shot was always rising over the top.
But the Diamonds were in front in the 15th minute after a mistake from makeshift right-back Steven Istead.
He stumbled in trying to cut out a Max Porter through ball, allowing O'Connor to spin into space and lash an unstoppable shot inside the right-hand post from 15 yards.
Higginson was next to try his luck for Mansfield but his drive was comfortably saved.
At the other end, Steve Foster failed to cut out a through ball only for Ryan Charles to fire over on the half-volley.
Mansfield had been caught offside four times in quick succession early on but finally beat the offside trap to draw level.
Adam Murray hooked the ball over the top for Luke Medley who raced clear, gathered himself and lifted the ball over the advancing Joe Day from 12 yards.
An inadvertent intervention by the referee set Medley away again, but this time he cut back on his left foot and had his shot from the edge of the box deflected wide for a corner which came to nothing.
Joe Day pulled off another good stop to claw away Connor's goalbound chip after a superb pass from Murray.
Alan Marriott came but did not claim a long throw as half-time approach but he was not punished as O'Connor's attempted finish was high into the Quarry Lane End.
The incident saw the keeper unable to continue, meaning David Grof came off the bench to replace him.
The Stags were unlucky not to surge in front when Medley crossed for the right for Connor, whose lay-off was smashed against the foot of the left-hand post by Briscoe.
Joe Day again came to Rushden's rescue when Connor brushed aside would-be challengers to get off a low left-foot shot that the keeper got down to tip around his left-hand post.
Rushden began the second half brightly but claims for a penalty by O'Connor after Tom Naylor's challenge were waved away.
Briscoe then jinked his way past two players only to play Connor into an offside position.
That seemed to give Higgnson inspiration who made a long run with ball at feet before firing across the face of goal, just in front of the arriving Connor and Medley.
But Rushden were still attacking whenever possible and O'Connor's glanced header was only just wide from Power's delivery.
Next, Power went for goal direct from a free-kick but could not curl the ball around the wall enough to find the target.
A shooting opportunity opened up for Medley after Higginson's intelligent crossfield pass picked him out, only for the striker to lash wide with his left foot.
With the game losing its impetus, Naylor twice did well head away from the danger zone and then block Justin Miller's effort from the follow-up.
A smart header from Connor gave Medley the chance to let fly but he could not keep his blast down.
A neat move involving Higginson, Murray and Tyrone Thompson saw Connor line-up a shot that was blocked by the Rushden defence.
Briscoe then centred from the left for the well-placed Naylor to head wide.
Grof then did well to push the ball away from Michael Gash, just as the striker was about to roll the ball into an unguarded goal.
There was late joy for Mansfield, though, when Briscoe sealed all three points for the posts in the final minute of normal time.
He latched onto Joe Day's clearance 40 yards from goal and ran on to strike a low shot into the left-hand corner from the edge of the box.
Mansfield had few problems in negotiating the extra time added to record their seventh home win of the campaign
Stags players show they are staying focused ahead of big Wembley trip
Evening Post considered report
EVERYWHERE you looked at Field Mill on Saturday there were reminders. It was, quite simply, impossible to escape.
Outside the ground, people flocked to a makeshift store selling commemorative FA Trophy final t-shirts, scarves and badges.
Up in the stands, a young fan waved an amber and blue flag, while several in the directors' box had proudly pinned rosettes to their suit blazers.
And, as the game got under way, the home support soon gave an early airing to one or two well-rehearsed chants about their big day to come.
From the club's point of view, the fact Wembley fever has already struck is just what they want.
The more they can wring out of their trip to London from a financial perspective the better – and more than 7,000 fans have already booked their seats in the first four days of tickets going on sale.
But it is against this backdrop that Duncan Russell has the extremely difficult task of keeping his players' minds focused on the considerable chunk of the Blue Square Bet Premier season still to play out.
The good news is, on this evidence at least, the Stags manager is succeeding.
At a juncture where it would be easy for Mansfield to forget their league programme, the team gave a performance which indicated they have heeded the words of warning from their boss.
They were given a fresh reminder on Friday that anyone coasting through to the May 7 clash with Darlington would not even make the trip down the M1, let alone the starting line-up.
No-one could be accused of giving anything less than their best against Rushden and Diamonds; of shirking out of challenges in a bid to avoid injury.
And when you still have, ahead of kick-off, ten games of the campaign still to play, that is exactly what management and fans alike wanted to see.
Having lost successive games to Kidderminster and Crawley, injury-hit Mansfield had hoped to bring back several of their injured. But only Niall O'Rafferty returned, while Gary Silk (foot) and Kevin Sandwith (illness) were added to those unable to start.
There were three changes of personnel in all, the most noticeable being the home debut handed to Conor Higginson.
He was drafted in on the right side of midfield, while Steven Istead moved to right-back to cover for Silk.
In the centre of the defence, Sandwith, who took a place on the bench, was replaced by Steve Foster.
And in goal, Alan Marriott's return for his first game since October following a hip injury was greeted by considerable cheers. The thinking behind his recall, despite the fine form of David Grof, was down to the Hungarian loanee's unavailability for Wembley, which had been confirmed in the lead up to the match.
Far from being unsettled by yet another reshuffle, Mansfield were quick out of the blocks.
Paul Connor's brilliant 35-yard volley was saved at full stretch by Joe Day, who then saved the striker's header from a Higginson cross.
The Rushden keeper also held on gratefully when Connor headed too close to him from a pinpoint cross.
Only then did Rushden spark to life as Alan Power blazed over, before former Stag Aaron O'Connor fired them in front.
As Istead stumbled in trying to cut out Max Porter's through ball, the nimble striker swivelled before smashing an unstoppable shot into the right-hand corner from 15 yards.
Just before the half hour mark, Adam Murray hooked the ball over a square defence for Luke Medley to chase. With played waved on, the striker gathered himself before lifting the ball over Joe Day. It was the first of his seven goals this season to come from a starting berth.
In the lead up to the break, Louis Briscoe struck the foot of the left-hand post after being intelligently teed up by Connor.
The big striker then twice more went close himself, first seeing his lob clawed away by Joe Day from almost on the line and then seeing his low angled drive brilliantly pushed around the post by the keeper.
For the former Lincoln and Rochdale man it really was one of those days, but his disappointment was nothing to that of Marriott's who had to depart and be replaced by Grof after sustaining a suspected dislocated finger.
The second period did not quite live up to the first half in terms of entertainment, despite no lack of endeavour from either side.
However, just as it seemed a point apiece would be the outcome, Briscoe pounced for his ninth goal in 12 games, finding the left-hand corner with a low drive from the edge of the box.
It may have come late, but it was no more than the Stags deserved.
The chance to build on the victory comes as soon as tomorrow night, when relegation-threatened Southport travel to north Nottinghamshire.
In fact, opportunity knocks in their next six games, with five of them on home turf and the other, at Hayes and Yeading, one they would surely fancy themselves to win.
If Mansfield can continue to cut a swathe through the hype and anticipation of their Wembley visit, they could yet achieve the top-ten finish Russell desires
Match facts: Mansfield Town v Rushden and Diamonds
Mansfield: Marriott, Istead, Foster, Naylor, Stonehouse, Higginson (O'Rafferty 90+2), Thompson, Murray, Briscoe, Connor, Medley. Subs not used: Grof, Sandwith, Preece, Hall.
Rushden: Joe Day, Miller (Farrell 88), Corcoran, Huke (Osano 74), Jamie Day, Porter, Mills, Power, Charles, Gash, O'Connor (Johnson 67). Subs not used: Evans, Keehan.
Referee: Peter Wright (Lancashire).
Attendance: 1,758 (125 visitors).
Goals: Mansfield: Medley (29), Briscoe (90). Rushden (O'Connor 15).
Shots on target: Mansfield 8 Rushden 1.
Shots off target: Mansfield 4 Rushden 8.
Fouls: Mansfield 13 Rushden 4.
Corners: Mansfield 5 Rushden 3.
Offsides: Mansfield 7 Rushden 3.
Bookings: Mansfield 1 (Higginson, 33, foul on Jamie Day) Rushden 1 (Huke, 20, foul on Connor).
Sendings off: Mansfield 0 Rushden 0.
Mansfield's man of the match: Tom Naylor. The central defender was a commanding presence at the back, even though he had to cope with losing his recent regular partner, Kevin Sandwith, through illness
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